Sector experts welcome Scotts Miracle Gro's private equity takeover

The proposed sale of Scotts Miracle-Gro operations in Europe and Australia to a private equity firm has been welcomed as a positive development for both the wider industry and the company itself by industry experts.

Staff at Scotts Miracle-Gro in Europe and Australia will become employees of Exponent Private Equity LLP under the deal, which is expected to close before September 30, subject to regulatory approval and prior information and consultation with works councils and employee representative bodies.

MDJ2's Andy Newman said: "This deal seems to bring an end to a difficult period for Scotts post-Solus.  I would imagine the new private equity owners will move quickly to look hard at the economics of the business, seeking efficiencies, but will also want to grow turnover. 

"It will be interesting to see whether they look for other complimentary acquisitions that they can bring under the Scotts umbrella.  As Scotts own many of the best-selling brands in the market they have a great base to build from."

Ovation's Neville Stein said: "If the private equity firm can see long term value in Scotts and are committed to building the brand then this is good news for the market as it brings about some stability, within the company and will therefore ensure continuing supply of their products to the trade."

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, said that products, such as Roundup, Weedol, Pathclear and Miracle-Gro, would continue to be manufactured and marketed in Europe and Australia as a result of licensing and sub-licensing agreements.

Scotts would not comment on a suggestion the deal could be worth £160m.

Exponent joins a list of private equity venture capitalist fund investors in the horticulture industry including Newcore, Midlothian and Terra Firma.

Phil Jones, senior vice president, of Scotts Miracle-Gro International Operations said: "Our international lawn and garden business is the strongest in the marketplace with outstanding brand recognition and a talented and dedicated team of associates.

"We’re delighted to have reached the proposed agreement with Exponent, as they would be an excellent steward of the brands and be well positioned to take the business to the next level. We expect the proposed transaction to be seamless to our retail partners, consumers and associates."

The proposed sale reflects Scotts Miracle-Gro ’s 'Project Focus' announcement in its 2016 accounts to concentrate more of its resources on its US business.

London-based Exponent has invested in Quorn Foods, Photobox Group, Loch Lomond Whisky, Big Bus Tours, the Ambassador Theatre Group and Trainline but this its first foray into the lawn and garden market.

Partner at Exponent Simon Davidson said: "These are market-leading garden care brands loved by consumers around the world. We look forward to working with the company and investing further in advertising and innovation to continue to grow these brands and unlock the full potential of the business."

Scotts president Jim Hagedorn said the move was a "bittersweet" moment, especially after a good styart to 2017.

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Neville Stein

Business advice from Neville Stein, MD of business consultancy Ovation

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